06 Jan 2015

January 6th, 2015

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

I commend you on your decision to read a new book every other week. As a public persona I am certain you are aware of how your actions impact those who look up to and respect you, especially today’s young people. I know you are a relatively young person, but when I write “young people” I am mostly thinking of those who are under the age of 20 and still very much in the process of figuring out the type of person they want to be. Being a life-long learner is, in my opinion, a great thing to be modeling. Thank you.

There is little doubt in my mind that you are one of those few exceptional people who come along every generation. I am not writing this to flatter you but as a bridge into saying I think it’s time you looked beyond being a life-long learner and started teaching.

The silly, silly, silly dental students at Dalhousie University are yet another example of one of the key faults and criticisms I have always had of Facebook. Facebook, like the Internet, is a powerful tool. You have created Facebook but failed to teach its users how to maximize the tool’s potential without harming themselves. Facebook, like the Internet, is not private place. Yet, time and time again young naïve individuals make this mistake. I cringe to think that these foolish young men have by taking part in a “social group” called into question their “good character” and that this will be taken into account when they apply to practice: but they have.

Under no circumstances do I condone misogyny. However, being now in my 5th decade of living, I know that some of the beliefs I held in my teens and twenties and comments I recall making (especially if had been drinking) were just plain wrong. I am grateful Facebook didn’t exist at that time. Sorry. I had much to learn about becoming the person I wanted to be and I did stumble from time to time. It was easier to be forgiven, to learn and to move forward without an electronic trail following me. Like today’s young people I would likely have been impulsive and screwed up on-line. Who was there then to teach me how to avoid doing this?

As a parent I have explained more times than I can count that one should never write or post anything on-line (or elsewhere for that matter) that one wouldn’t say in a face-to-face encounter. To do so is cowardly and lacks integrity. Choose to be a person of integrity. I love my Facebook account. I get to see some of the great things going on in the lives of people I care about and when I can’t reach my kids by phone, messaging them on Facebook is far more effective than e-mail. In a way you’ve given me a way to spam my kids without over doing it. Thanks. I could go on but singing Facebook’s praises isn’t the point. We all know how wonderful it is. What needs to be addressed now is how we teach others “not” to use it in a way that harms themselves and others. As a parent there are limitations to what we can teach our children- they just don’t listen. But, they do listen to other adults they respect who are not their parents. I think it’s time that person was you.

Respectfully yours,

Heike Mertins

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